This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead!
Last time, I outlined chapters 3 and 4, continuing Christopher’s story, and chapter 5, continuing God-Speaker’s.
Christopher Takes a Risk
So far, Christopher seems to have gotten lucky. He survived the fall from an airplane and found the bunker. Now, he finds himself safe in the bunker, but lost in the wilderness. He is naturally inclined to avoid risk, but he begins to think he has no choice.
In keeping with his character, he evaluates his options before he does anything. He doesn’t know much about the area. He hikes around the woods near the bunker. He has a difficult-to-interpret map from the bunker, which might point him toward other landmarks. He has a good quantity of food and supplies from the bunker.
He also has no illusions about his lack of skill in wilderness survival. The snow is now fairly deep, especially the drifts that form in this craggy, mountainous terrain. His leg is feeling better, but still not completely healed. He knows it would be easy to overextend himself.
Christopher ultimately decides that he needs to go out exploring, but he is the sort of person who will first engineer some kind of test run to gain confidence. He thinks he may have an idea of how to interpret the map, but if he’s correct, it will entail days of travel to get to any of the spots marked on it. He will need to be able to travel for days over difficult terrain, carry enough supplies to stay alive, and keep himself warm on cold nights.
Christopher’s Story Beats
Getting meta for a moment, there are a few things I want to accomplish with this section of Christopher’s story.
First, Christopher has to overcome his fear and set out. He’ll make some timid progress. This is just enough to push him to take a bigger risk, actually heading out into the wilderness far enough that he can’t get back to the bunker by nightfall.
As soon as he’s in a situation where he can’t easily back out, I want the story to start beating him down. The terrain becomes more difficult than he expected. His equipment breaks. He twists the ankle that was starting to heal. And it snows again.
At that point, I have Christopher good and miserable. Everything is going wrong and he’s more than a day away from the bunker. It will be a long, hard journey just to get back to his safe spot. His prison. That gives him an even more difficult choice: does he continue, hoping to reach one of the points marked on his map, or does he go to all that work just to get back to his starting point, worse-off than he was before?
All of this should lead into him making the tough choice to keep going. We can feel proud of his perseverance in the face of all these difficulties, and fighting against his own personality.
So, he continues, and manages to get to the spot marked on the map. At first, he finds nothing. He searches. Finally, he finds what the mark on the map means. It is another bunker: a different, smaller structure. This one is ruined, broken and burnt. It looks like it was destroyed decades ago.
That forces another decision on him, similar to the first, but with much higher stakes. He still has the choice to continue or go back. The next mark on the map is further away. He doesn’t think he has enough supplies to get to this new place, or to get back to the bunker, and his leg is in bad shape.
Wrapping up Act I
Those beats probably get me more than halfway into Act I. From that point, I need to start moving the plot toward the action that I know should happen before the act is over. Christopher being in dire straits is a good opportunity for Amaranth, the exile hunter, to give him some help, providing the first sign that good things can actually happen to Christopher in this book (even if they’re few and far between).
From there, it’s a matter of Christopher continuing toward Razor Mountain, gaining some confidence in his own ability to solve problems on the fly. He eventually meets Amaranth and she brings him to her people, the exiles. But that’s all for another day. For now, I need to turn some of this into more chapter outlines.
- Chapter 6 – God-Speaker chapter. TBD.
- Chapter 7 – Christopher decides to investigate the closest marked point on the map. He collects all the equipment he thinks he will need. He tries camping outside the bunker to get comfortable with it. By the end of the chapter, he feels ready to do a test excursion.
- Chapter 8 – Christopher hikes a half-day out, sets up a camp site, tears it down, and returns to the bunker. He has some troubles with his equipment. He gets a little lost. He’s tired, and it’s very late by the time he gets back to the bunker. He decides to rest up and plan for the actual journey to the mark on the map.
- Chapter 9 – Christopher sets out in perfect weather. He travels most of the day, then sets up camp. Everything goes smoothly this time, and he feels good. He sleeps.
- Chapter 10 – God-Speaker chapter. TBD.
- Chapter 11 – Christopher wakes up when his tent collapses in the night. There has been a huge snowfall. He does his best to jury-rig a lean-to, but it goes poorly. He gets no more sleep before morning and is forced to eat and pack in heavy snow. He is cold, wet and miserable. He decides to continue, but is once again full of uncertainty. His progress is very slow, he twists his ankle, and he still hasn’t gotten to his destination by nightfall. He’s exhausted, and he constructs something that barely qualifies as shelter.
- Chapter 12 – The next day, Christopher feels that he is nearing his limits. He searches for the marked location for most of the day. Finally, he finds it, but it’s ruined. It was clearly smashed and burned decades ago.
What About God-Speaker?
I chose to not worry about God-Speaker for this session. I know I want to have several more God-Speaker chapters mixed in, but I have a good idea of what I want to do with Christopher, and I’m less certain about God-Speaker. As I get these Christopher chapters worked out, I can look for good places to add a few God-Speaker chapters, and worry about their content later.
I outlined five more chapters for Christopher, while reserving a couple of slots for God-Speaker chapters.
Next time, I’m going to figure out what should be going on in those chapters, and if those slots are enough. I want to get to a similar point in the God-Speaker storyline where I’m at least within sight of the end of Act I.